For a striker with such a long career, the statistics weren't always kind to Emile Heskey. If you want a truly prolific goalscorer, he wasn't your man.

Across his 17-year spell in the Premier League, Heskey managed 111 goals in 516 games - an impressive figure in insolation. However, there are those who will claim that for a striker who was kept around for so long, he should have done more.

However, despite regular calls from rival fans and the media for Heskey to be dropped, Leicester City, Liverpool, Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa all saw value in the Englishman. They could see that he was more than just a goalscorer. 

Emile Heskey

"It wasn't the managers who got on me," Heskey told 90min. "It was everyone else saying 'oh, he's not scoring enough goals'. 

"Well he brings this to the table, he brings that, he does this, he's great at that, the team gel well with him in it. But they just didn't get it. Now, people are getting recognition of the back of being a team player."

Comparing a player from the modern game to Heskey is tricky, but an obvious starting point is ​Roberto Firmino. The ​Liverpool man is a regular target for criticism over his comparatively poor goalscoring record - he had to wait until March for his first goal at Anfield this season - but the general opinion of him is different.


There's talk of teams overseas readying enormous bids to try sign Firmino, and you don't have to look too hard to find examples of his teammates showering him with praise. There is now an acceptance that just because you're a striker, you don't have to be a goalscorer.

"I just think everything gels properly when he's playing," Heskey says of Firmino. "He's not necessarily worried about 'this is my job and I need to do this'. 

"You see him chasing back and tackling, you see him playing left wing and chase the guy up and down the wing. Then you'll see him up front, getting the ball and holding it up and bringing someone in. It's just a different variety of stuff that he does, he's not just focused on 'I must score goals'.

"I'm a forward, so I look at the runs he's making, the space he's creating. He seems to get space where nobody gets space. 

"He creates his space, his first touch is brilliant because he takes it away from players, so he can have time to look around and assess what he's got to do next. He's great at that."

​Mohamed Salah and ​Sadio Mané have been the main beneficiaries of Firmino's grace. The two wingers score an absurd number of goals, and it's no secret that the Brazilian's teamwork plays a large part in that.


For Heskey, his partners-in-crime at Liverpool were fellow strikers Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler, who shouldered a lot of the goalscoring burden and allowed him to do what he did best.

"It was easier for us because we played with two strikers," he adds. "As long as one of you were scoring, the other one could do all the other work."

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